Covid-19: Vaccine could be rolled out in March – but not for everyone, Jacinda Ardern says

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Approved Covid-19 vaccines could be rolled out by March.

Siphiwe Sibeko/AP

Approved Covid-19 vaccines could be rolled out by March.

A Covid-19 vaccine may be rolled out as early as March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. But if it is, it won’t be available for all.

“At this point, our expectation that we’ve been running to is more around the March date,” Ardern told Newstalk ZB on Monday. “[But] not everyone is receiving [the] vaccination at the same time.

“It won’t happen in one fell swoop.”

The prime minister said nothing was set in stone, and the Government was still working towards finalising agreements.

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Frontline workers are expected to be prioritised when the first doses become available, followed by those deemed most vulnerable, including elderly, Māori and Pasifika communities.

Ardern’s comments come after the United Kingdom announced the first Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines could be available in a week. Hospitals in the UK have been told to prepare for deliveries on December 7.

Dates around the world differed, however. “Different countries have different dates,” Ardern told Newstalk ZB.

The prime minister has been in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel​ and French President Emmanuel Macron​. Germany is reportedly aiming for vaccine approval by mid-December, while France is aiming for January.

New Zealand has already signed agreements with Pfizer and BioNTech, Janssen Pharmaceutica, and the COVAX facility. Collectively, these agreements will guarantee vaccines for over half the population.

Ardern expects more vaccine arrangements will be publicly announced by the end of the year. At that point, she is planning to do a “general mop up” of all the finalised agreements to give New Zealanders a better idea of what the vaccination plan will be moving forward.

Any vaccine planning to enter the New Zealand market will need to be approved by Medsafe first, regardless of approvals already given overseas.

“It is not going to get the big tick in New Zealand unless they are satisfied,” vaccinologist Dr Helen Pertousis-Harris previously told Stuff. “They have really got their work cut out for them now.”

Medsafe isn’t able to provide specific time frames for approvals, but said a decision could be made within a few months of receiving the full dataset.

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